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Xi Jinping is purging China's military — and it could disrupt its race to catch up to the US

Thibault Spirlet   

Xi Jinping is purging China's military — and it could disrupt its race to catch up to the US
  • Xi Jinping is purging military officers from their positions.
  • The Chinese president removed nine senior officials from their posts last Friday.

Chinese President Xi Jinping's recent purge of the country's military generals has weakened its armed forces and highlighted corruption in its ranks, analysts told Reuters.

During his tenure, Xi has intensified anti-corruption efforts across China's government and the People's Liberation Army (PLA), Reuters reported.

Last Friday, this culminated in the president axing nine senior military officers from their positions.

Among them were three former commanders or vice commanders of the PLA Rocket Force, which looks after China's nuclear missiles, a Navy commander who oversaw the South China Sea, a former Air Force chief, and four officers who were in charge of equipment, per Reuters.

"It is a clear sign that they are being purged," Andrew Scobell, a Distinguished Fellow for China at the United States Institute for Peace, told Reuters.

Alfred Wu, an associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore, said there were likely more purges to come.

"More heads will roll. The purge that centred around the Rocket Force is not over," he said, per Reuters.

While the Chinese government has not provided any reasons for why the generals were removed from their posts, some analysts said it was due to corruption within the Rocket Force over how they have gotten equipment.

Others, such as Yun Sun, the director of the China Program at the Stimson Center think tank, noted that the purge had weakened China's military.

And that could disrupt China's race to catch up with the US's military power.

China has been attempting to close the gap with the US in recent years, building the world's largest navy and planning a series of overseas military bases.

But as of now, China remains at a significant tactical disadvantage compared to the US.

In a recent interview on The Michael Medved Show, retired US Navy Admiral James Stavridis said that China was not ready to fight the US in the next 10 years.

Despite China's huge navy and shipbuilding capacity, the US military would prevail thanks to its military alliances, Stavridis said.

"If we ended up in a war with China, it wouldn't be just the US and China," he said.

Relations between the two superpowers deteriorated last year, with tense military encounters over the South China Sea and the US military shooting down a Chinese surveillance balloon over the continental US.

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